Feb. 26, 2021 Vanessa Friedman, fashion director of The New York Times, takes a reader question.
My daughter is getting married this spring. It will be a small daytime wedding in a park. I bought a knee-length wrap dress and neutral-colored low heels to wear, and though I have not bought or worn stockings in decades, I feel as if I should wear them with this outfit. My daughter is horrified and plans to go barelegged under her knee-length wedding dress. Is there a general “rule” about stockings? Some guidance, please. — Judith, Washington, D.C.
Pantyhose — or stockings or nylons or tights, which are not exactly the same things but are often used interchangeably — are one of those items of dress that seems innocuous and unimportant, but is actually a giant generational, occupational and cultural lightning rod. For women of a certain age, they are simply a part of girding yourself for the world; for others, they are a symbol of old-fashioned female repression and outmoded gender rules.
They’re not exactly a girdle or a crinoline, but they are a descendant of that genetic line: undergarments foisted on women to cover their bodies and make them “acceptable” to outsiders. They also, of course, help keep your legs warm and maybe prevent skirts from clinging, but that’s the trade-off.
Indeed, if you ever want to start a lively discussion during a lull in a dinner party, bring up the question of pantyhose. Even when they are invisible or skin-tone, no one is neutral on the subject.
|Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in 2018|
Wearing white hosiery.
Indeed, there were lots of rumors that tights were royal protocol, in part because the Duchess of Cambridge, like her grandmother-in-law, always wears them. Yet a few months after the tights appearance, Ms. Markle put an end to the talk, attending a charity performance in a tuxedo minidress and … no hose! Revolution, cheered the watching hordes.
Whatever the truth of the royal issue, the import was pretty clear: Stockings are not modern.
But then, many Gen X and Boomers stopped wearing pantyhose years ago, dismissing them as uncomfortable and easily ruined by runs. Most Millennial women have never even worn them, and thanks to more casual office wear, they don't need to in most offices.
This fall into disrepute has probably been hastened by the pandemic, since pantyhose are not exactly a necessary part of one’s wardrobe when working from home. And indeed, even before remote work became a reality for many of us, most offices had abandoned the requirement (spoken or not) for pantyhose at work.
The exception being flight attendants. For many of them, pantyhose are still part of the uniform — see Kaley Cuoco in “The Flight Attendant” on HBO Max — in part because the compression in some pairs helps with circulation at altitude.
That said, designers love to reinvent and reassess previously rejected garments, so right on cue stockings have been on the rise in a variety of collections. Virginie Viard put sheer polka-dot versions on her runway for fall 2020; they were there at Saint Laurent in lace; and this week Kim Jones showed a sheer black pair at his Fendi show.
And know this: The sheer nylons and tights segment of the global hosiery market is predicted to grow by 2.1 percent over the next seven years. So whatever the politics, pantyhose are not going away.
My Note: I am not sure that I agree. Here in Florida, I almost never see Pantyhose. What do you think?